Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

ca, not to relieve Columbus, or deliver his distressed coun. trymen, but to spy out their condition. ..!

Fearing the sympathy of those whom he sent would operate too powerfully in favour of their countrymen, he sent Escobar an inveterate enemy of Columbus, who adhered to his instructions, with malignant accuracy: cast anchor at some distance from the island, approached the shore in a small boat, took a view of the wretched state of the Spaniards, delivered a letter of empty compliment to the admiral, received his answer, and departed. i.

When the Spaniards first descried the vessel standing towards the island, every heart exulted, expecting the hour of their deliverance had arrived ; but when the vessel disappeared, they sunk into the deepest dejection, and all their hopes were lost. Columbus alone, though he felt this wanton insult, retained such composure, as to be able to cheer his followers. He assured them that Mendez and Fieschi, had reached Hispaniola in safety; and that they would speedily procure ships to carry them off; and as Escobar's vessel could not carry them all, he had refused to go with her, because he was determined not to abandon his faithful companions in distress ; soothed with the exa pectation of speedy deliverance, and delighted with his apparent generosity, in attending more to their preservation than his own, their spirit revived, and he regained their confidence.

The mutineers were now at hand. All his endeavours to reclaim those desperadoes, had no effect, but to encrease their phrenzy. Their demands became more extravagant, and their intentions more violent and bloody. It became necessary to oppose them with open force.

Columbus who had been long afflicted with the gout; could not take the field. His brother the Adelantado marched against them. They quickly met. The mutineers rejected, with scorn, all offers of accommodation, and rushed on boldly to the attack. They were repulsed at the first onset, and several of their most daring leaders were slain. The Adelantado, whose strength was equal to his courage, closed with their captain, wounded, disarmed him, and made him a prisoner. This disconcerted the rest, who fled with a dastardly fear, equal to their former insolence. Soon after they submitted in a body to Columbus, and bound themselves in the most solemn oaths, to submit to his commands.

Hardly was tranquillity established, when the ships appeared, whose arrival Columbus had promised. With transports of joy the Spaniards quitted an island, in which the mean jealousy of Ovando, had suffered them to languish above a year, exposed to misery in various forms.

When they arrived at St, Domingo, the fourteenth of August, 1504, the governor, with that mean artifice usual y attending vulgar minds, that labours to atone for insolence, with servility now fawned on the man he had attempted to ruin. He received Columbus with the most studied respect, lodged him in his' oft house, and distinguished him with every mark of honour. But, amidst those overacted demonstrations of regard, he could not conceal the malignity latent in his heart. He set at liberty the captain of the mutineers, whom Columbus had brought over in chains, to be tried for his crimes and threatened those who had adhered to the admiral, with proceeding to judicial inquiry into their conduct. --*.

Columbus submitted in silence to wliat he could not redress; but was impatient to quit a country under the jurisdiction of a man who had treated him with such inhumanity and injustice. His preparations were soon finished, and he set sail for Spain with two ships. Disaster's still continued to accompany him ; one of his vessels was so disabled, as to be forced back to St. Domingo; the other shattered by violent storms, sailed seven hundred leagues with jury masts, and reached with difficulty, the port of St. Lucar.

There he received an account of an event, the most discouraging that could have happened. This was the death of his patroness, queen Isabella, in whose justice, humanity, and favour he confided, as his last resource. Not one was now left to redress his wrongs, or to reward him for his services and sufferings, but Ferdinand, who had so long opposed, and so often had injured him. To solicit a prince, prejudiced against him, was irksome and hopeless. In this, however, was Columbus doomed to employ the close of his days,

As soon as his health would permit, he repaired to court, where he was received with civility barely decent : he presented petition after petition, demanding the punishment of his oppressors, and the rights and privileges bestowed upon him, by the capitulation of one thousand four hundred and ninety-two. Ferdinand continued to

VOL. I..

· amuse him with fair words, and unmeaning promises.

Instead of granting his claims, he proposed expedients in order to elude them.

The declining health of Columbus, Mattered Ferdinand with the hopes of being soon delivered from an importunate suitor, nor was he deceived in his expectations. Disgusted with the ingratitude of a monarch, whom he had served with such fidelity and success, worn out with fatigues and hardships, and broken with infirmities, which these brought upon him, Columbus ended his life at Val, ladolid, on the twentieth of May, one thousand five hundred and six, in the fifty-ninth year of his age. He died with that composure of mind, suitable to the magnanimity which distinguished his character, and with sentiments of piety becoming that supreme respeet for religion, which he manifested in every occurrence of his life.

[graphic]

BOOK II.

. While Columbus was employed in his last voyage, the colony of Hispaniola was gradually acquiring the form of a regular government: the humane solicitude of Isabella to protect the Indians from oppression, and the pro‘clamation, by which the Spaniards were prohibited from compelling them to work, retarded, for some time, the progress of improvement. „The native3, who considered exemption from labour as supreme happiness, rejected with scorn, every allurement by which they were invited to work. The Spaniards, accustomed to the service of the Indians, quitted the island ; many of those who came over with Ovando were seized with distempers peculiar to the climate ; and in a short time near a thousand of them died. At the same time, the demand of one half of the product of the mines claimed by the crown, was found to be an exaction so exorbitant, that there was none to be found that would engage to work them upon such terms. Ovando to save the colony from ruin, relaxed the rigour of the royal edicts, and again distributed the Indians among the Spani. ards, compelling them to work, 'for a stated time, in digging the mines, or in cultivating the ground; to cover this breach of his instructions, he enjoined their masters to pay them a certain sum, as the price of their work. He redu. ced the royal share of the gold found in the mines to one fifth, and was so fortunate as to persuade the court to approve of these regulations.

The Indians, after enjoying a short respite from servi. tude, now felt the yoke of bondage to be so galling, that they made several attempts to regain their freedom. This the Spaniards considered as rebellion, and took arms in order to reduce them to obedience : considering them not as men fighting in defence of their liberty, but as slaves, who has revolted against their masters. Their caziques, when

taken, were condemned, like the leaders of a banditti, to the most cruel and ignominious punishments; and all their subjects without regard to rank, were reduced to the same abject slavery. Such was the fate of the cazique of Higuey, a province in the eastern extremity of the island.

This war was occasioned by the perfidy of the Spani. ards, in violating a treaty, began and concluded by them with the natives ; and was terminated by hanging up the cazique, who defended his people with a bravery that deserved a better fate.

But his treatment of Anacoana, a female cazique, was still more treacherous and cruel. The province anciently called Xaragua, which extends from the fertile plain where Leogane is now situated, to the western extremity of the island, was subject to her authority. She, from that partial fondness with which the women of America were attached to the Europeans, had always courted the friendship of the Spaniards, and done them good offices. But some of the adherents of Roldan, having settled in her country, were so exasperated at her endeavouring to restrain their excesses, that they accused her of a design of throwing off the yoke, and destroying the Spaniards. . .

Ovando, though he knew that little credit was due to such profligate characters, marched without further enquiry towards Xaragua, with three hundred foot, and seventy horsemen. To prevent the Indians from taking alarm at this hostile appearance, he gave out that it was bis sole intention to visit Anacoana, to whom his countrymen had been so much indebted, and to regulate with her the mode of levying the tribule payable to the king of Spain.

Anacoana, in order to receive this illustrious guest with due honour, assembled the principal men in her domini. ons, to the number of three hundred, and advancing at their head, accompanied by a vast crowd of the lower rank, she welcomed Ovando with songs and dances, and conducted him to the place of her residence. There he was entertained for several days, with all the kindness of simple hospitality, and amused with games and spectacles usual among the natives, upon occasions of mirth and festivity,

Amidst the security which this inspired, Ovando was meditating the destruction of his unsuspicious and generous entertainer, and her subjects; and the manner in which he executed his scheme, discovered such meanness and barxarity, as must shock every lover of humanity.

« PreviousContinue »